Protest says police killed dozens of unarmed Black men
Published Apr 22, 2009 12:52 PM
Over 50 protesters braved stormy weather and a reign of terror on April 20 to
gather outside the headquarters of the Fraternal Order of Police and take a
stand against police brutality in the Black community. Rally organizers charged
that in the Philadelphia area 36 unarmed Black men were killed by police
between May 2008 and April 2009.
Initiated by the African American Freedom and Reconstruction League, the
demonstrations denounced the bigotry, bias and racist murders that have been
committed by the Philadelphia Police Department.
Protesters say police have been given
'license to kill.'
WW photo: Joe Piette
Leon Williams, speaking on behalf of AAFRL, said, “We have a situation
where none of us are safe in Philadelphia. We need accountability. Mayor
[Michael] Nutter is not doing anything. Police Commissioner [Charles] Ramsey is
not doing anything. The police Internal Affairs are not doing anything. The
only way things will change is when citizens stand up and be vigilant.
Let’s get rid of the corrupt, abusive police and do it now.”
Several speakers denounced the FOP’s attack on Craig Washington, an
African-American municipal judge who in February asked police to remove photos
and flowers left in memory of a slain police officer from his courtroom in the
35th District police headquarters, which serves as an official courtroom for
preliminary hearings. When the police officers denied his request to remove the
items, Washington turned a picture over on his own “to avoid any
appearance of bias in this courtroom.”
The FOP sought Washington’s transfer and is now conducting a campaign to
vote him out of office in November. Referring to a large banner reading
“Dump Judge Craig Washington” that adorned the outside of the FOP
building, AAFRL spokesperson Brother Robert denounced this campaign. “The
FOP is a disgrace to have the audacity to try to trash a judge for being
principled,” he said. “But what do you expect from an organization
which has all kinds of corrupt police, white and Black?
“Internal Affairs is like the fox guarding the hen house,” he
continued. “They need to be investigated. The FOP is racist to the core.
Let a police officer in Philadelphia stub his toe and the city comes to a
standstill. They allow drugs and guns to flow freely into our communities. They
do nothing about it.” Brother Robert continued, “The police have
been given license to kill.”
Legislative Black Caucus calls for investigation
A growing number of community leaders, including state legislators, are calling
for an investigation to address allegations of police misconduct and abuse. The
Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus joined this call in the aftermath of an
incident involving State Rep. Jewell Williams.
Williams, who is Black, was driving in his North Philadelphia neighborhood on
March 28 when he observed two police officers frisking an elderly Black man. He
started to intervene out of concern over how the officers were treating the
man. When Williams got out of his car to ask if everything was okay, the police
officer replied, “Get the f**k back in your car before I give you a bunch
Williams identified himself, asked to speak with the officer’s
supervisor, and was subsequently handcuffed. Both officers involved in the
incident, members of the Narcotics Strike Force, had been named in earlier
cases of police brutality and excessive use of force.
The calls for an investigation have been sparked by other allegations of racism
by officers, including a report by a Temple University student who allegedly
heard one officer refer to residents in his North Philadelphia precinct as
Speakers at the rally talked about Williams’ arrest, and noted that not
even Black politicians or Black police are safe. “The FOP is organized
crime,” Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia
Abu-Jamal told the gathering. “They have organized media. They have
organized courts. These are our children they are beating down, our children
they are killing.
“Our children can’t stand on the corner because the police allow
drugs in our neighborhoods. They know who brings drugs in and they protect
them,” said Africa.
Shahrazad Ali, mother of an 8-year-old and an adult son, described her constant
concern that her sons could be shot or locked up. “Mayor Nutter has given
police the political right to come up against us,” Ali said, referring to
Nutter’s “stop and frisk” policy, which gives police license
to stop anyone on the streets at anytime. The program is allegedly designed to
stem the number of murders in the city.
“Black people don’t make the guns and bullets,” Ali noted.
“They come from outside our community.”
Police brutality victim Abdul Jon described being beaten by police inside City
Hall with a baseball bat in 1981. He spent five days in the hospital and five
months in jail before going to court, where a judge described the beating as
“insignificant.” Jon said, “We’re suffering under a
state of police tyranny. They’re about terrorizing us. It’s not
just an issue of brutality.”
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